Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is important and popular, but ignorance about its potential harms can be dangerous to consumers. Physician passivity about the subject may also be doing consumers a disservice. Two interesting articles underscore this:
From the NIH:
In spite of the high use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) among people age 50 or older, 69 percent of those who use CAM do not talk to their doctors about it…
A telephone survey, administered to a nationally representative group of 1,559 people age 50 or older, revealed some reasons why doctor-patient dialogue is lacking. Respondents most often did not discuss their CAM use with doctors because the physicians never asked (42 percent); they did not know that they should (30 percent); or there was not enough time during the office visit (19 percent).
If you’re banking on a daily vitamin to make up for any deficiencies in your diet, you may be getting a whole lot more — or less — than you bargained for.
Of 21 brands of multivitamins on the market in the United States and Canada selected by ConsumerLab.com and tested by independent laboratories, just 10 met the stated claims on their labels or satisfied other quality standards.
Most worrisome, according to ConsumerLab.com president Dr. Tod Cooperman, is that one product, The Vitamin Shoppe Multivitamins Especially for Women, was contaminated with lead.
The same product also contained just 54 percent of the 200 milligrams of calcium stated on the label.
The analysis also showed that Hero Nutritionals Yummi Bears, a multivitamin for children, had 216 percent of the labeled amount of vitamin A in the retinol form, delivering 5,400 International Units (IU) in a daily serving. That’s substantially more than the upper tolerable level set by the Institute of Medicine of 2,000 IU for kids ages 1 to 3 and 3,000 IU for those 4 to 8.
Because too much vitamin A can cause bone weakening and liver abnormalities, the Yummi Bears “could be potentially doing more harm than good,” Cooperman said. “Vitamin A is one of those vitamins where you really don’t want to get too much.”
It’s important for physicians to educate themselves about CAM therapies and make it a part of their practice to ask their patients about the supplements they take. The Natural Standard databases are a great resource for physicians and consumers, and will be available soon at Revolution Health. Natural Standard, initially created by a team of Harvard physicians, systematically reviews the evidence behind the efficacy claims of various herbal remedies and supplements.
What resources do you use to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the herbs and supplements you’re taking?
This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.